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August 13, 2018

Import store owner snags industrial building in tight Portland market

Courtesy / Tod Dana
Courtesy / Tod Dana
Asia West owner Tod Dana is rehabilitating a 1970 industrial building at 128 Cassidy Point Drive in Portland as his new warehouse. He purchased the building last month before it even hit the market.

In Portland's tight market for industrial buildings, the owner of Asia West, an imported furnishings store, was able to secure the purchase of a 13,880-square-foot facility before it hit the market.

Asia West bought 128 Cassidy Point Drive in Portland from PWS Holdings for $675,000. Frank O'Connor and Tom Dunham from NAI The Dunham Group brokered the sale, which closed July 2.

"It never even hit the market before we had it under contract," said O'Connor, who represented the buyer. "Anything in Portland is like gold. It doesn't last on the peninsula."

Asia West owner Tod Dana said he'll use the ground floor as Asia West's new warehouse. Part of the second floor will be used as offices for his teams at Asia West and at El Rayo Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant that he also owns and operates in Portland and Scarborough. Other upstairs space will be leased to artisans for light manufacturing.

A visit to Nepal

Courtesy / Tod Dana
Courtesy / Tod Dana
Asia West’s existing warehouse, at 193 Presumpscot St. in Portland, is packed with imports.

Asia West's existing warehouse is at 193 Presumpscot St. in Portland. He leases space to artisans there, and many have shown interest in following him to the Cassidy Point Drive building.

He's vacating the Presumpscot Street building at the end of this month.

"I was a tenant and the lease expired," he said.

Dana became fascinated with Asian culture many years ago, when he visited an older brother who was living in Nepal.

"I went to visit him after college on a lark," Dana told Mainebiz. "We traveled around together. That was the beginning of, 'Let's figure out some way to keep getting back to this part of the world to travel, but turn it into a self-sustaining business of sorts.'"

The import business started modestly.

"And it's still fairly modest," he said. "But I've been importing now for 30 years. And Asia West has been around for 26 years. I still do all the buying myself. I'm buying for our retail business and also for trade shows and wholesale clients. It's not a big outfit but we've been at it a long time. I enjoy it."

Dana travels overseas perhaps twice a year, to countries like India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

"If I'm shopping for jewelry, I might be in India, Indonesia and Thailand, where there's a rich indigenous history in metalsmithing. For furniture, I might be in India or China or Thailand."

Several sea containers each year

Courtesy / Tod Dana
Courtesy / Tod Dana
Tod Dana operates his Asia West retail store at 219 Commercial St. in Portland.

In 1993, he opened Asia West at 219 Commercial St. in Portland. The initial inventory was a modest selection of furniture, handicrafts, and jewelry, but grew to a comprehensive selection of home and garden furnishings, including furniture, textiles and upholstery, the website says. Dana and his team meet directly with traders and craftsmen, eliminating middlemen and passing along savings to customers. The company has recently become a wholesale resource for retailers and interior designers.

The warehouse receives several sea container shipments each year. It's open to the public weekends and by appointment.

"That's been a tradition that's gone really well," Dana said. "People come in on the weekends and love to comb through the warehouse."

Dana said that, knowing his Presumpscot Street lease would be expiring, he had his eye on the Cassidy Point Drive property for a long time.

"It's super convenient to my retail store," he said. "It's halfway between my two restaurants. I live on Danforth Street, half mile away. It has water views. And it's very functional, with easy access to the highway. I identified it a few years ago as a perfect location, but the owner had a lucrative lease, so if I were going to buy it before this, I would have had to pay him a premium. So I waited until the lease expired."

Dana said he looked long and hard for a warehouse.

"Marijuana growers have made warehouse space in Maine hard to find and quite expensive," he said. "So I was pleased to be able to find this."

The new warehouse, built in 1970, involves some light renovation — mainly cosmetic work and cleaning, plus replacing the windows and some roof work — at an expected cost of between $100,000 and $200,000.

"I'm here right now covered in sawdust," Dana said. "I'm doing a lot of it, plus I've got friends and hired help helping me. And in addition to renovating this month, I'm also having a huge moving sale at my warehouse, then doing the move."

De Niro's hotel

Dana said he typically stores perhaps 8,000 to 9,000 square feet of inventory, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, packed into his warehouse. But with the new warehouse, he plans to downsize a little and efficiently arrange the space to entice out-of-state wholesale clients, who have been coming from as far afield as Ohio, Philadelphia and Florida.That's a relatively new aspect of the business, he said.

He's also, increasingly, becoming a resource for interior designers of high-end properties, including actor Robert De Niro's Greenwich Hotel in Manhattan, for which Dana provide two truckloads of furniture.

"Those are fantastic jobs and I hope to do more of that," said Dana. "The designers really do much of the creative work and then use us as a resource. I'm very quick to say, 'We would be more than happy to accommodate to you.'"

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